The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)


Using 3D Modelling to Tell Individual Stories from the American Civil War

KRISTEN E. PEARLSTEIN1, TERRIE SIMMONS-EHRHARDT2, BERNARD K. MEANS3, BRIAN F. SPATOLA1, ANGI M. CHRISTENSEN4, RICHARD M. THOMAS4 and MARY R. MANI4.

1Anatomical Division, National Museum of Health and Medicine, 2Forensic Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 3Anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University, 4Laboratory, Federal Bureau of Investigation

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

The Anatomical collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) contain skeletal specimens that highlight the history of military and civilian medicine dating from the American Civil War and the founding of the museum in 1862. NMHM curates over 2,000 skeletal specimens from the Civil War consisting primarily of single bone elements that display a variety of pathological conditions including battlefield trauma, bacterial infection, and amputation. The NMHM is collaborating with Virginia Commonwealth University and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory to digitize and disseminate high-quality 3D models via online portals, enabling scholars and educators to manipulate, analyze, and 3D print the models from anywhere in the world. Manipulation of the digital models allows researchers the opportunity to study aspects of bone healing and response to disease in submillimeter detail. Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanning and digital model manipulation of elements from the Civil War has revealed skeletal responses that are not macroscopically visible. The ability of micro-CT analysis to reveal the internal bone structures has aided in the interpretation of experiences of individual soldiers. For example, bullet debris, hairline fractures, and punctured neural canals which were not previously observed can now be visualized. This project presents a number of Civil War cases where micro-CT analysis revealed internal data that were not externally visible, but may have contributed to soldiers’ documented post-trauma (post-surgical) experiences. The sharing of these military medical assets improves historical knowledge and diagnostic capabilities in the fields of medicine and anthropology.


Slides/Poster (pdf)